Editor's Note: The following
commentary offers the author's personal views of the on-field performances of
some of Stanford University's exceptional student-athletes. In no way
should constructively-intended criticism be deemed
as a lack of
respect or admiration for our players' obvious desire, dedication, sacrifice and
commitment. The views expressed below do
not reflect necessarily those of Bootleg management, Major Upset Productions, the Scout
Network, Fox Sports, News Corp or Coach Harbaugh.
It was a Big Game disappointment for Stanford. What looked so great in the first quarter turned into nothing but a thrilling, but bitter loss in a very exciting game. For all the blame that is about to be spread, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Stanford still had a shot to win with 75 seconds left to go. It was a great game, with the wrong ending. Brace yourselves. The grading may appear tough, but as they say: "When the grading gets tough...the tough (the "TWU" offensive line in this instance) get grading!" To the marks we go:
RUN GAME: B-
Toby Gerhart rushes for 136 yards and a school-record-tying four touchdowns and the run game only gets a "B-"? You could certainly make the argument to boost this number up to at least a B. (If he bowls over for the game-winning TD, this of course goes to at least an A-) "Touchdown Toby" certainly provided plenty of offensive sparks for Stanford. Tyler Gaffney's 21-yard sweep to set up a touchdown was marvelous and hopefully an indication of future runs to come. Redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck once again used his legs very effectively, showing an uncanny sense for the position of the sticks. But for all the positives, the Stanford run game was largely missing-in-action during the middle two quarters of the game. After giving up the sensational, crowd-thrilling 61-yard touchdown to Gerhart on the first drive, and another touchdown run after the blocked punt,
PASS GAME: D+
Stanford fans have been so spoiled. Andrew Luck has been amazing in his inaugural season at the helm. Yet, Saturday night we were all reminded he is a 19-year-old redshirt freshman who is just scratching the surface of his talent. Unfortunately, he waited for the Big Game to suffer his least productive game. It is not to blame him, to ruin is confidence, or to get on him, it is just a plain fact with which I am sure he agrees. He did not play well. His stat line was 10-30, 157 yards, no touchdowns and the fateful interception. 4 of 12 for 27 yards in the first half. Un-Luck-y. Uncharacteristically, #12 dropped three shotgun snaps from center. He overthrew his targets with regularity. He also had little help. The great Cardinal offensive line struggled like they had not done this season. Luck saw much more pressure than normal. When he would deliver the pass, the receivers reverted back to the
RUN DEFENSE: D
Shane Vereen ran a personal-best 42 times for 193 yards. That alone is "enough said" on this grade. The Stanford defense made some big plays early, and they made two stops late. But during the middle of the contest they just could not get off the field. It was
PASS DEFENSE: C-
One of the keys to the game going into it for
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Stanford blocked the punt. Again they won the field position battle on kickoffs. Owusu was a step away from a touchdown on more than one occasion. The only "not-so-great" knock on the special teams night was the missed field goal by Nate Whitaker. How big would those three points have been in the fourth quarter?
This seems to be where fan anger and frustration lies. The Stanford fan seems willing to forget the play of kids on the field, but there shall be no forgiveness for the coaching staff for not putting them in the best spots for success. The staff has been pulling solid grades all year, so this one was hopefully a fluke. The Cardinal game plan seemed "okay" out of the gate. "We are going to do what we do best and make them stop us." But the coaching staff seemed slow to make adjustments when
Look, I actually support the decision to go for it on fourth down in Stanford's own territory. The Cardinal defense had not proven they could get off the field. If the play fails, the short field could help and a field goal still leaves Stanford a chance. In fact, that part did work out. Some of the fourth-quarter play-calling though was highly questionable. Midway through the fourth with an offense that is struggling there were two consecutive bombs thrown. Two incomplete passes leaving a third and ten. On the final drive, what was the upside to scoring right away? There was plenty of time for
OVERALL: F (We recognize this should be more like a "C" or "C+", but c'mon, this was the Big Game!)
It was a fun game at which to be present. It was exciting, it
was exhilarating, but in the end it was a loss. It was a loss to a rival. It was
a loss to Cal. No other grade could be appropriate other than an "F". When the
season ends next week there will be plenty of time to look back and ask. How did
we not take the Bears' generous offer to have Stanford play less than their best
and still win it at the end?
Note: Fortunately, the resilient Cardinal still has an opportunity to ace 2009's final exam on Saturday and get a terrific grade for the fall quarter. We hope everyone is hitting the books and studying hard.
Dave Fowkes is a longtime Stanford Cardinal fan, who is finally seeing his loyalty pay some serious dividends. Born at Stanford hospital and raised on the Peninsula, he has been a football season ticket holder since 1981. In that span he has only missed three home games, but of course never a Big Game. Dave currently works in media both on the air and behind the scenes in advertising sales. He has covered sports on and off since 1992. Currently he works as a traffic, news and sports man on several Bay Area radio stations under a few different on-air aliases. Dave blends the passion of being a fan with the perspective of being a reporter in his stories. For more Stanford football coverage by Dave Fowkes, you can read the "Stanford Football Examiner" at www.stanfordfootballreport.com
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